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Summer Theory Institute

About the Institute

The Summer Theory Institute (STI), founded in 2008 by HLS alumnae Nisha Agarwal ‘06 and Jocelyn Simonson ’06, is a workshop for HLS students with public interest internships in New York City. STI provides an opportunity for HLS students to reflect critically on their internships, to think about the role of social theory in legal practice, and to connect with and learn from other public-interest-minded students and alumni.

The mission of STI is to infuse excitement, innovation and sustainability into the fellows’ initial experiences practicing public interest law full-time. Working together to think through the role that social theory can play in legal practice and activism allows the fellows to engage more meaningfully with their organizations’ methods of pursuing justice on a day-to-day basis. By creating the space to discuss larger theoretical concepts outside of the work environment, STI enhances the fellows’ senses of the potential for intellectual rigor and personal fulfillment in public interest work. STI aims to create a community of future leaders who will bring their enthusiasm for pursuing social change through the law back to the HLS community at the end of the summer.

What We Do

For ten weeks over the summer, fourteen institute fellows will meet with the facilitators one evening a week to discuss works of social and critical theory as they relate to the fellows’ public interest work. At each session, the group will engage with a different set of short theoretical readings, each focused loosely around a theme that relates to the students’ public interest work (e.g., economic justice, women’s rights). Although the readings will be tailored to the interests of the group, some examples of the types of thinkers we might engage with include Pierre Bourdieu, F.A. Hayek, bell hooks, and Kwame Anthony Appiah. It is also our hope to meet at least once with students from other law schools in New York engaging in similar theory-practice discussions.

What’s Expected

Summer Theory Institute (STI) fellows are expected to:

  • Attend and participate in all ten evening sessions;
  • Prepare for each group meeting ahead of time; and
  • Lead one week’s discussion.

There is no guaranteed stipend for fellows this year, but dinner will be provided at every session. STI fellows will also have the option of submitting a case study or an approved research paper to the Program on the Legal Profession (PLP) following the conclusion of the Institute. Of those submissions, PLP will select the top two and award each of the winners a $500 prize. If needed, PLP is willing to reach out to any internship supervisors to inform them of fellows’ STI obligations, following the commencement of the internship and prior to submission of the optional case study or research paper.

How to Apply

Applications are due April 21, 2014. Download the 2014 STI application.

About our Team

Sean Hill, STI Alum and Facilitator, is an Equal Justice Works fellow at Youth Represent, sponsored by Greenberg Traurig LLP, where he is presently implementing the Family Stability Project for New York City youth under 25. While at Harvard Law School, he served as the co-chair of the Leadership and Mentorship Program (LAMP) of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) for two consecutive years, and pursued several clinical opportunities with the WilmerHale Legal Services Center, Criminal Justice Institute, and Trauma & Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI).  

Jungmin Cho, STI Alumna and Facilitator, is an associate at Vladeck, Waldman, Elias & Engelhard, P.C., a public interest law firm that represents employees in employment law matters.  Jungmin also clerked for the Honorable Harold Baer, Jr. of the United States District Court of Southern District of New York.  While at Harvard Law School, she was a member of Unbound: Harvard Journal of the Legal Left and the Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association. 

Nisha Agarwal, STI Co-founder and Advisor, was recently appointed by Mayor Bill de Blasio to serve as the Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs for the City of New York. Previously, Nisha helped to establish the Immigrant Justice Corps, the country's first public interest fellowship program focused on immigration law. She also co-founded the Center for Popular Democracy, a high-impact national organization, where her work focused on immigration and civil rights. Nisha helped to grow CPD from an initial staff of three to a staff of 36 and a budget of over $5 million. Nisha also served as the Director of the Health Justice Program at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, where she was a Skadden Fellow.

Jocelyn Simonson, STI Co-founder and Advisor, is currently an Acting Assistant Professor of Lawyering at NYU Law School.  Prior to joining NYU, Jocelyn worked for five years as a public defender at the Bronx Defenders, where she was a Supervising Attorney and Team Leader.  Jocelyn also clerked for the Honorable Barrington D. Parker, Jr. on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.  

About our Fellows

Since its inception in the summer of 2008, institute fellows have worked with a variety of dynamic public service organizations, including:

  • The Bronx Defenders
  • New York Lawyers for the Public Interest
  • The ACLU
  • The NAACP Legal Defense & Education Fund
  • Sanctuary for Families
  • The Environmental Protection Agency
  • Advocates for Children
  • National Employment Law Project
  • Connecticut Legal Services
  • Make the Road New York
More Information

Download and read an article in the NYU Review of Law and Social Change on the Summer Theory Institute

Download a printable info sheet >


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